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The stage of rectal cancer is used by doctors to determine the most appropriate treatment strategy. Staging relies on imaging tests, such as CT scans and pathology results. The stage of rectal cancer depends on:
At Dignity Health North State, our doctors have access to the latest technology for the diagnosis and treatment of rectal cancer. Find a Doctor at one of locations who specializes in determining the stages of rectal cancer in Northern California with dignity and humankindness:
Stage 0, or carcinoma in situ, is the earliest stage of rectal cancer. Cancer is only present in the outermost lining of the rectum. It has not spread to the lymph nodes or anywhere else. Many stage 0 cancers are found during a cancer screening colonoscopy and removed. After removal, additional treatment may not be necessary.
In stage I, rectal cancer has grown deeper into the wall of the rectum, but has still not spread to the lymph nodes. Surgical removal of the cancer and part of the rectum is the recommended treatment. Many cancers are successfully treated and even cured in this stage.
Stage II rectal cancer is more invasive than stage II, but still has not spread to the lymph nodes. Early stage II cancers have reached the outermost layers of the rectal wall. Late stage II cancers have grown through the wall of the rectum and into nearby tissues. Surgery, along with chemotherapy, is still effective at this stage.
At stage III, rectal cancer has invaded nearby lymph nodes or other tissues. Surgery, along with radiation treatment and chemotherapy, is the recommended treatment. If surgery isn’t an option, radiation treatment and chemotherapy can still be used to treat the cancer.
Stage IV rectal cancer is the most extensive stage of the disease. It means cancer has spread beyond the rectum into distant organs, such as the lungs or liver. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used to reduce symptoms and extend life. Sometimes surgery is also an option.
Clinical trials of new drugs, including targeted therapies that attack cancer cells but not healthy ones, may lead to new treatment options for stage IV rectal cancer. These treatments may also be helpful for cancer that returns after previously successful treatment (recurrent cancer).